Apleni faces fight-back over suspension

Home Affairs power play: Presidency says minister within her rights to dump her director-general

03 October 2017 - 06:49 By Kyle Cowan
Suspended Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni. File photo.
Suspended Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni. File photo.

Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize has the authority to suspend her director-general, Mkuseli Apleni, the Presidency said in court papers on Monday.

Last week Apleni filed an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court for an order invalidating his suspension by Mkhize.

He argued that the allegations against him were unfounded and that only the president had the power to suspend him.

The case is to be heard on Tuesday.

In an affidavit in response to Apleni's application, the director-general of the Presidency, Cassius Lubisi, said Apleni "misconstrued the jurisdictional facts" relating to suspensions as set out in the Senior Management Service Handbook.

Lubisi argued that there was no urgency in Apleni's application. He said that, in terms of the delegation of powers as specified in the service handbook, although the president and the cabinet are responsible for the appointment of heads of national government departments the minister may suspend them.

Lubisi's affidavit reads: "All [that is] required is an allegation of the commission of a serious offence. There is no requirement that the allegation be substantiated or be rational."

Apleni's submissions that key department projects would be delayed because of his absence were also dismissed by Lubisi.

"The applicant [Apleni] does not provide any factual basis to support the allegation that service delivery and critical projects will be affected by his suspension."

Acting Home Affairs director-general Jackie McKay, in papers filed on behalf of Mkhize, said the minister was too busy to draft an affidavit herself.

Mkhize did make time, however, for the media, to whom she lambasted Apleni for his allegation that she would try to use his absence as an opportunity to settle litigation.

Among the litigations Apleni listed is a R300-million claim by Double Ring Trading, a company accused of fraud. Another case involves an application for relief by Fireblade Aviation, which operates a VVIP terminal at OR Tambo International Airport and is owned by the Oppenheimer family.